by Cole Pepper
August 7, 2013
Despite a roster made up of more new players than returners, despite a team that won just two games last year and despite a new head coach and general manager, the number of starting jobs that are truly up for grabs in Jaguars camp are few and far between.
Yes, there is a quarterback competition underway, but day by day, it appears that Blaine Gabbert is seizing that job, as most thought he would. On offense, the only other starting job that is undecided is at fullback, where Will Ta’ufo’ou and rookie Lonnie Pryor are competing. Then again, the fullback does not appear to be a major part of the Jaguars new offense. The other positions on offense are pretty much set: Eugene Monroe and rookie Luke Joeckel will be the tackles with guards Will Rackley and Uche Nwaneri flanking center Brad Meester. Marcedes Lewis is the incumbent at tight end and Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon are the wide receivers.
The receivers have a good battle going for playing time behind Shorts and Blackmon and the likes of Mike Brown, rookie Ace Sanders, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Shipley, Toney Clemons and others will have ample opportunities to impress the coaches because neither Shorts (calf) nor Blackmon (recovering from groin surgery) are going to play in the preseason opener Friday against the Dolphins.
Of that group, Brown and Sanders have been the most impressive so far. They figure to play a lot with the starters on Friday.
“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Brown said. “You are always one play from playing so you have to be prepared.”
Brown was a college quarterback at Liberty and last year, he was just an athlete playing the wide receiver, but he has worked to become a wide receiver.
“I try to pride myself on catching the football and having good footwork, being able to separate,” Brown said. “Obviously there is a ton of room for improvement in all areas, so I’ll keep working on it.”
On defense, the questions are more about who will be involved in the defensive line rotation and whether second round pick Johnathan Cyprien will be back in time to be up to speed on the defense. Cyprien strained a hamstring before camp and hasn’t worked in any drills yet.
In his stead, Chris Prosinski has been working at strong safety with the first team.
On the defensive line, Tyson Alualu appears to have locked up the starting job at left defensive end with Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller inside and Jason Babin at the LEO position as the top pass rushers. Behind them, veteran Jeremy Mincey, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, massive rookie T.J Barnes (364 pounds), Andre Branch, Ryan Davis and
Paul Posluszny will be flanked by Russell Allen and Geno Hayes at linebacker. Alan Ball and rookie third round pick Dwayne Gratz will start at cornerback with Dwight Lowery at free safety and Cyprien (if healthy) at strong safety.
Perhaps there will be more competition at the kick and put return spots, but the smart money is on Denard Robinson to handle kickoffs and Ace Sanders to return punts. Once they start tackling in preseason games Friday, we should have a better handle on that competition.